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REVIEW: What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris

Dear Mrs. Harris,

Book CoverWhen I got my hands on the hardcover edition of the third book in this mystery series, it was another moment when I wished I’d already read the other books in the series. But since, and especially with a mystery series, I try to read sequels in order I knew I’d better haul out — so to speak — the ebook copy I had had — for ages — of this book. So I did. I had read and enjoyed several of your historical romances written as Candice Proctor I was pretty sure there would be some kind of romance and I knew you’d get the historic details correct. The mystery to me would be how you’d handle the mystery in the book. Okay, that’s bad but I just can’t help myself.

Sebastian St. Cyr — I liked him. He’s got a certain style and flair but he’s nobody’s fool. He cooly lets the opening scene duel play out, knowing his opponent will cheat and beating him anyway. Then when suddenly faced with the charge of the brutal rape and murder of a young woman he doesn’t even know and attacking on a policeman during his arrest, he keeps his head, grabs the chance to avoid incarceration, puts his intelligence work gained in the Penninsular War to good use and sets about solving the crime.

But he’s not the only great character in the story. Kat, the young Irish actress, and Sebastian have a history, a present and I hope a future. Kat’s no dummy herself and has some interesting things going on in her life that she has to keep from Sebastian. Sir Henry Lovejoy, chief magistrate for Westminster at Queen Square is fantastic. His faith in new “scientific” methods is a nice contrast to Sebastian’s “seat of his pants” style yet he’s got that policeman’s instinct to play a hunch and goe with gut instinct. I look forward to seeing more of him. Tom however is very much a cliche. I’ve read all kinds of cockney servants, especially in the tragically shortened Lord Julian mysteries and even before then. Dr. Paul Gibson — does he have to have opium addiction? Is his soldier’s game leg not enough? He does do an interesting post-mortem which CSI fans will enjoy.

The story has great atmosphere – the cold, the snow, the ice and dark days. Stamping of feet in the cold, cold poor people huddled to stay warm, the desire for warm clothes. I like that the book is really told from POV of the streets instead of the rich and wealthy. I could really see problems wracking the country as it headed into almost year 20 of war with France. That helped me see Lord Frederick’s reasoning to end the war.

As for the mystery, I thought it well done and Seb’s handling of it seems realistic. At first he hasn’t got a clue – as when he realizes that he doesn’t even know how her body was found, when the killing occured or anything he needs to try and track down the truth. He makes some false starts but gets his feet under him and discovers a knack for it. I loved the turning point after Gibson’s examination of the body when he realizes that he doesn’t just want to prove his innocence anymore but rather wants to find murderer to get justice for Rachel. He regains the idealism that he’d lost during the war when he no longer cared which side was committing the atrocities. I figured that Lord Jarvis was involved but you did good job of providing suspects and red herrings.

I wonder just what is going to happen between Seb and Kat? Will he discover what Kat’s been up to? I think that what happened to Kat and Rachel is all the more powerful for not being explicitly spelled out — we get hints of what they suffered and endured and what’s gone into making them the way they are but you don’t bash us over the head with the ugly details.

One thing I did note was that it seems that Sebastian has too many close escapes from the law and yet too many times he just walzes around London and gets away with revisiting suspects and implying they’re guilty. And what was document from Seb’s mother that Sebastian’s father was so desperate to obtain? Was it about his birth? I would assume so because of the comment the Earl made to his daughter that he’d do anything to protect the line of inheritence. Is there were Seb’s Bithil condition comes from – the (supposedly) Welsh groom?

Despite its length, I was caught up in the whole story and eagerly wanted to get back to it whenever I had to stop. If the next two books are as good, I’ve got some great reading to look forward to. I’m glad you didn’t stop writing. B

~Jayne

The Sebastian St. Cyr series:

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

16 Comments

  1. Elly Soar
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 13:21:10

    Help me out, what’s “Bilith”? – I tried googling with no sucess.

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  2. Kristie(J)
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 18:07:34

    I love, love, love her writing as Candice Proctor and was quite disappointed when she moved to historical suspense. Of course it didn’t stop me from buy What Angels Fear or When Gods Die though I haven’t read either of them yet. Is there much romance at all in this one?

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  3. Michelle
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 18:19:56

    One warning, the latest book Why Mermaids Sing is absolutely HORRIBLE. Main characters acting like idiots/TSTL, soap opera like twists, just ridiculous. Very disappointing compared to the previous books.

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  4. Janine
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 19:19:50

    I love, love, love her writing as Candice Proctor and was quite disappointed when she moved to historical suspense. Of course it didn't stop me from buy What Angels Fear or When Gods Die though I haven't read either of them yet. Is there much romance at all in this one?

    There is a romance between Sebastian and Kat, but it’s a subplot rather than the main plot, and it continues from book to book. I enjoyed What Angels Fear and really recommend it, but I have not read the second and third books.

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  5. Jayne
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 19:20:52

    Well if I spelled the condition correctly, it would help. This is the author’s note at the end of the book. It might be considered a spoiler.

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R

    Although it would not have been recognized in the early nineteenth century, the unusual abilities displayed by Sebastian St. Cyr are characteristic of Bithil Syndrome, a little-known but very real genetic mutation found in certain families of Welsh descent.

    Bithil Syndrome is marked by astonishingly acute eyesight and hearing, and an abnormal sensitivity to light that allows those with this genetic variation to see clearly in the dark. Other characteristics of the syndrome include extraordinarily quick reflexes, a misshapen vertebra in the lower back, and yellow eyes, the eye color being recessive to both blue and brown.

    Although rare, Bithil Syndrome is nevertheless quite ancient, having been discovered in at least one individual known to have died in Wales some ten thousand years ago. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, immigrant Welsh families carried this mutation to North America, where it can be found today, particularly in the southeastern United States amongst families of mixed Cherokee and Welsh descent.

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  6. Jayne
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 19:23:06

    Kristie, there is a little romance in the present and the remembrance of it from the past and the chance of it for the future…but overall, it’s more of a historical mystery than a romance.

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  7. Jayne
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 19:25:17

    Michelle, that utterly reeks. I wonder if the problems she had while writing it (transplantations after Hurrican Katrina) influenced her writing and caused this?

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  8. Michelle
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 19:47:15

    The actual mystery in WMS isn’t too bad. It is the relationship part that was ridiculous. It really had most of the parts of a bad romance novel/bad soap opera. I won’t post spoilers but ugh, just left a bad taste in my mouth. Sebastian is a very likable honorable character and he just gets shafted by most everyone (except the lovable orphan that he takes care of, and his friend/doctor). I guess I am somewhat sexist in that I am more offended by stupidity in women characters than in male characters. Oh well.

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  9. Jessica
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 00:18:52

    I enjoyed When Gods Die and What Angels Fear.
    I am sorry to see Michelle’s comments about the third book, but I will likely still read it. Glad to know that the problem may just be with the romantic subplot, not the mystery.

    Love the Dear Author site, Jayne and Jane, even though I rarely comment. Thank you for all your hard work and enjoyable content. It’s great to see romances discussed in a thoughtful way, and I appreciate the info on ebooks. I am still learning how to use and fill my ebookwise reader.

    Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

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  10. Sora
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 01:47:39

    Having just finished Why Mermaids Sing, my reaction is different from Michelle’s. Perhaps because my idea of ‘TSTL’ (I gather it means Too Stupid To Live?) is different from hers? *shrug*

    I’m trying so hard not to spill. Find out for yourself, Jayne (or anyone else who are going to pick up WMS)

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  11. sandy l
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 07:48:29

    I really enjoy this series also. It ranks with my all time favorite, the P.B. Ryan mysteries with Nell and Will. I have WMS on reserve at the library, so I will probably read it.

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  12. Susan/DC
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 12:54:54

    I agree with Sandy in that I rank this series with P.B. Ryan’s Golden Age mysteries. However, I wouldn’t want to be a young, beautiful, pregnant woman in this series, as my life expectancy is about as long as one of James Bond’s love interests. This series is very well written, but very dark (which is not actually a criticism but merely a heads-up for other readers).

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  13. Keishon
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 13:38:11

    Glad to know that the problem may just be with the romantic subplot, not the mystery.

    Romantic subplots rarely get the focus or the attention like it does in a romance novel. So, while the romance may suck as Michelle says, the mystery aspect of the novel is what I would be focusing on more anyway. However, it’s always nice to get a bonus with any novel outside romance with a romantic subplot that is pretty good and steamy.

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  14. Michelle
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 16:47:58

    Fans should also check out Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave. She has a sequel coming out later Silent in the Sanctuary.

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  15. Patricia
    Mar 07, 2008 @ 13:56:39

    Hey, I have not read the book yet but my daughter has. She really was surprised when she read the Author’s note. You see, she has one light brown eye and one dark brown eye, and now I guess we know why. Very cool. My great grandmother was Cherekee, and my mom always told me I have some Welsh ancestry. My daughter is one of eight children. It was nice to have a reason behind the colors of her eyes. She does have good night vision and is very quick with her hands. We’ve never checked her back for the vertebrae condition though. I’m glad you put that note in your book. I may put another note here after reading your book. Thanks for solving our mystery.

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  16. Jayne
    Mar 07, 2008 @ 19:11:27

    Whoa, how cool is that?

    ReplyReply

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